In what is being toted as the pinnacle game in Bungie’s popular “Halo” franchise, “Halo: Reach” is the epitome of average. There, I said it.
The game brags an enormous scale of battlefields decorated with dozens of different enemies. And like the main characters, the weaponry selection is beefy. However, in a world where new first-person shooters are pooped out like bad tacos, “Halo: Reach” gets lost in a septic tank of mediocrity.
The campaign, although rather short, feels like a tired, repetitive trek. For the first time ever, not only did I not care about completing the campaign of a “Halo” game, I hated every second doing it.
But before I get into the bad, there were some qualities to this new “Halo” that were exceptional. Series composer Marty O’Donnell once again outdid himself and crafted a brilliant soundtrack. O’Donnell perfectly moves the action along, picking up the music’s pacing when multiple enemies surround you. His compositions in this long-running franchise have been the key ingredient to its epic feel and I hope he continues his masterful work in another game or film series in the near future.
The graphics, character models and weapon effects have been significantly improved over “Halo 3,” and the hint of a motion blur effect makes environments and fast-paced gunplay look stunning. Obviously, this is Bungie’s most polished work. The controls are solid and work well, but there is just something missing that makes me yearn for something greater.
The multiplayer, although heavily populated and extremely customizable, feels empty. I can’t blame this solely on “Halo” because this is a gripe I have with multiple new online games. This problem can actually be attributed to the popular usage of Xbox Live’s party system, which creates a private lobby where buddies can talk outside of the games chat system – essentially murdering everything I used to love about playing video games with random strangers. Anyone playing an online game of “Halo” and not in another group’s party chat will be unable to hear anyone speak. So even though there are oodles of people playing, no one can communicate with strangers. This means no smack talking, no loli-gagging – nothing.
Perhaps it is the nostalgia I feel when I think about my days playing “Halo 2” as a young teen, wasting my youth in the greatest way possible. Back then, if someone from North Dakota was tea-bagging you, you could hear the slight giggle from their microphone blaring in your headset. It was almost poetic.
I also miss the clan matches, the camaraderie and especially the competitiveness that came with leveling up and leveling down if you performed poorly in a heated match. In “Halo: Reach,” there is no leveling down, and unlike “Halo 2,” ranks are not scaled on a numbers system from one to 50. Instead, leveling up is modeled to replicate a military rank system similar to the extremely popular “Modern Warfare” series.
In some way, I think Bungie understands the love that their fans have for “Halo 2.” They understand so much that they even tried recreating a bunch of “Halo 2’s” multiplayer maps with their new engine. Ivory tower is now bigger and shinier than its predecessor. Ascension feels exactly the same. Midship is now three stories tall and even sports a man cannon that shoots players into space. These revamps of fan-favorite maps actually make all of “Halo: Reach’s” new maps look like a bad joke, which leads me to the conclusion that “Halo” will never be as good as it used to be.
Listen to me, I sound like an old fart – complaining about change, reminiscing of past conquests. But admit it, I’m right. This game is average, nothing more, nothing less. It may be popular right now, but just like the “Now That’s What I Call Music” series, every good thing eventually dies.